I used to think that money and wealth were the same thing. That was a long, long time ago when I started this blog. Now I know better.
When I think of money, I think of a currency that can be measured. For example, a person may say they have a net worth of $100,000 or $1,000,000 or even $10,000,000. That’s money. Wealth is applying money to live your best life.
Let me give you an example. We had quite a bit of money a few years ago, but I didn’t feel wealthy. Much of it was tied up in retirement accounts or real estate. If we had to access it, I would get a sick feeling. We still had to live a bit frugally. That changed when three things happened:
- My dog boarding business took off. We had a lot more cash flow, so it was no problem to spend a little more.
- We sold a rental property. We took much of the money and re-invested it in a brokerage account. While it’s not your typical “emergency fund,” it feels like one. The only penalty for selling the stock is paying the potential capital gains tax. There’s no penalty like there is with cashing out of your retirement money.
- My wife got a promotion. That’s more cash flow.
The big change is more cash flow and access to a good amount of accessible money. That buys peace of mind, which makes me feel wealthy.
What Does Wealth Mean to Most People?
When Charles Schwab asked people what made them feel wealthy, it wasn’t a fancy car or designer clothes and accessories.
Most people said three things make them feel wealthy:
- Enjoying experiences more than buying stuff.
I’ve long said that experiences are worth more than stuff. It’s fairly common in personal finance circles. Much of the philosophy behind FIRE is based on valuing your time (years of financial freedom) over flashy status symbols
- Eliminate Stress about Money
Sometimes, when you go through a social media feed, you feel you must keep up with the Jones’. However, what makes people feel wealthy is being able to deal with a $600 car repair and not worry about it.
- Don’t Work too Hard
People channeled their inner “Lazy Man” with this one. They appreciate work-life balance. So, for example, if you are a doctor or a lawyer, you might make a pile of money. However, you might work long hours and be on call. Many people wouldn’t think that they’re truly wealthy with that lifestyle.
That sounds a lot like me. The only one that I’m on the fence about is the first one. I’ve gone back and forth on experiences vs. possessions because some possessions lead to great experiences.
One very interesting part of the article seemed a little off the topic. Nonetheless, I love the idea. The thought was about being mindful of how you view your vacations. Specifically, this line stood out:
“Does a vacation feel as good as it does because you’re sunbathing on an island or because you’re uncomfortable at your current organization?”
I had to do a lot of introspection on this one. For me, it’s the time to reset from my usual routine. Working from home, I don’t get out much. When I do, it’s usually quick trips to grocery shopping. For a reset-type of vacation, I can do something cheap. However, there’s another factor to consider. We live in a closed-off community with little diversity. There’s a lot of value in a vacation that gets the kids exposed to different cultures. Those require more travel and aren’t as cheap.
Would it have been better if I named this blog Lazy Man and Wealth? I don’t think so. In the minute that they are deciding whether to read this site, I think “money” expresses the core concept of most of the articles. It’s up to readers to use that money to define their version of wealth.